My 6th and final day on the Katy Trail is sunny and warm, yet wholly uneventful. No quirky towns or historical tidbits. From Sedalia to Clinton is a “just get there” kind of ride.
Instead of Missouri River views, I get prairie restoration on the Osage Plains. The Osage tribe once dominated the tallgrass prairies of western Missouri. American settlers, in addition to displacing them, also messed up the ecosystem by turning the fertile prairie into farmland. Less than 1% of prairie remains in this area, but ride along the Katy and you’ll see it. The railroad’s 100-foot wide corridor helped preserve the landscape minus 15-20% needed for track clearance. I’m biking where trains once ran. That is the beauty of the Katy.
Fun-sounding flora like big bluestem, ashy sunflower, compass plant and rattlesnake master are taking root. Although to my untrained eye the landscape looks flat and boring, I’m passing through an ecologically exciting area.
I pause at a sign marking the highest elevation on the trail. It doesn’t even break four figures, which is high enough for me on a bike with three gears. After this point I expect downhill relief, but instead feel the trail continue inching up an incline.
A family with three kids from Austin, Texas thinks the same thing when we reconvene at the next rest stop. I first met them at the Katy Roundhouse Campground in Franklin and have been leapfrogging with them ever since. Their bikes are faster, but their kids are slowing them down. The youngest rides in a trailer on dad’s bike.
The dad is curious at my ride and takes Countri Bike for a test spin. He gets about 50 feet and turns around.
“This is a struggle,” he says. “No thanks.”
He wasn’t even riding with the trailer attached. Mom and auntie are eating peanut butter sandwiches trailside while the kids, who already scarfed down food, go off exploring in the woods "hunting" for animals. That’s the last I’ll see of them.
In Clinton, end of the line, I ride past the trailhead parking lot to the very end of the path hoping to find a commemorative sign or a small crowd cheering me with flags. I made it 225 miles! Doesn’t anyone else care? All I see is a dead end. The rail line continues, not as a trail, but as an abandoned and overgrown path impassible for cyclists and off-limits to the public. Sadness sets in.
I circle back to the trailhead, snap a picture of the caboose on display, and make my way to a much needed hotel shower before getting completely overwhelmed by a three-fillet fried catfish dinner.